Can Breaking Bad spin-off reignite New Mexico tourism?

Will Better Call Saul help the New Mexico tourism market pick up where Breaking Bad once left off?
Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul. Ursula Coyote / AP Photo/AMC
Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul. Ursula Coyote / AP Photo/AMC

It’s been 15 months since the finale of Breaking Bad, and tourism linked to the hit television series has been flagging slightly – but it could be reignited by the new spin-off series.

Better Call Saul, a prequel that will focus on teacher-turned-druglord Walter White’s lawyer, Saul Goodman (played by Bob Odenkirk), is due to premiere in February, and tourism bosses in New Mexico are hopeful it will be as successful as the original.

“They can’t get enough of the show because it’s gone, so what’s the next best thing to do? Go to the city where it was filmed,” said Frank Sandoval, an actor who had a small part in the series, and who is now part of Breaking Bad RV Tours, which takes fans to filming locations used in the TV show.

Since its debut in 2008, Albuquerque has become a hub for fans who followed the transformation of White (played by Bryan Cranston) from chemistry teacher to drug kingpin.

Fans pay US$75 (Dh 275) for the Breaking Bad RV tour. One couple came all the way from New York to visit the shooting locations. “I was obsessed with the show for a while,” said Ryan Todd. “So now I’m in front of Walt’s house, that’s where the magic happened.”

Sandoval is not alone in building a business on the success of the series. A confectionery shop makes sweets that look like the blue meth that White “cooked” on the show.

But Debby Ball, owner of the The Candy Lady, is realistic about the long-term prospects for Breaking Bad tourism. “Of course it’s going to slow down, but we’ll always have the diehard fans that couldn’t get here,” she said.

Thanks to the global success of Breaking Bad – and a 30 per cent tax break – many more productions have made their way to New Mexico – including the upcoming Avengers sequel, Age of Ultron. A recent study found the industry had created as many as 15,000 jobs in the state.

New Mexico Film Office director Nick Maniatis says, “So that’s money going into our economy. We’ll always have Breaking Bad,” he says, but then adds: “I’m moving on to Better Call Saul.”

artslife@thenational.ae

Published: December 15, 2014 04:00 AM

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